Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816)
From 18th Century Literary Anecdotes

Conversing about dramatic literature, Sheridan furnished us with some particulars relative to the first night's performance of 'The Rivals'. During the violent opposition in the fifth act, an apple hitting Lee, who performed Sir Lucius O'Trigger, he stepped forward, and with. a genuine rich brogue, angrily cried out, 'By the powers, is it personal?—is it me, or the matter?'

The Life and Times of Frederic Reynolds Written by Himself (2nd edn., 1827), ii. 227-228.

INSTEAD of being annoyed, Sheridan seemed rather amused when one of the company inadvertently alluded to Merry's remark, on the night of the first performance of The School for Scandal, at the close of the second act:

'I wish the dramatis personae would leave off talking, and let the play begin.'

The Life and Times of Frederic Reynolds Written by Himself (2nd edn., 1827), ii. 228.

Two days previous to the performance of The Critic, the last scene was not written; Dr. Ford and Mr. Linley, the joint proprietors, began to get nervous and fidgety, and the actors were absolutely au désespoir, especially King, who was not only stage-manager, but had to play Puff. To him was assigned the duty of hunting down and worrying Sheridan about the last scene; day after day passed, until . . . the last day but two arrived, and it made not its appearance.

At last Mr. Linley, who being his father-in-law was pretty well aware of his habits, hit upon a stratagem. A night rehearsal of The Critic was ordered, and Sheridan, having dined with Linley, was prevailed upon to go; while they were on the stage, King whispered Sheridan that he had something particular to communicate, and begged he would step into the second green-room. Accordingly Sheridan went, and there found a table, with pens, ink, and paper, a good fire, an armed chair at the table, and two bottles of claret, with a dish of anchovy sandwiches. The moment he got into the room, King stepped out, and locked the door; immediately after which, Linley and Ford came up and told the author that, until he had written the scene, he would be kept where he was.

Sheridan took this decided measure in good part; he ate the anchovies, finished the claret, wrote the scene, and laughed heartily at the ingenuity of the contrivance.

Reminiscenses of Michael Kelly (1826), ii. 308-9.

ONE evening that their late Majesties honoured Drury Lane with their presence, the play, by royal command, was The School for Scandal. When Mr. Sheridan was in attendance to light their Majesties to their carriage, the King said to him,

'I am much pleased with your comedy of The School for Scandal; but I am still more so with your play of The Rivals — that is my favourite, and I will never give it up.'

Her Majesty, at the same time, said, 'When, Mr. Sheridan, shall we have another play from your masterly pen?' He replied that he was writing a comedy, which he expected very shortly to finish.

I was told of this; and the next day, walking with him along Piccadilly, I asked him if he had told the Queen that he was writing a play. He said he had, and that he was actually about one. 'Not you,' said I to him; 'you will never write again; you are afraid to write.'

He fixed his penetrating eye on me, and said, 'Of whom am I afraid?'

I said, 'You are afraid of the author of The School for Scandal.'

Reminiscenses of Michael Kelly (1826), ii. 226.

I [Samuel Rogers] was present on the second day of Hastings' trial in Westminster Hall; when Sheridan was listened to with such attention that you might have heard a pin drop.— During one of those days Sheridan, having observed Gibbon among the audience, took occasion to mention 'the luminous author of The Decline and Fall'. After he had finished, one of his friends reproached him with flattering Gibbon. 'Why, what did I say of him?' asked Sheridan. — 'You called him the luminous author,' etc. — 'Luminous! oh, I meant voluminous.'

— Rogers, Table Talk, pp. 37-38.

ON the night of the 24th of February 1809, when the House of Commons was occupied with Mr. Ponsonby's motion on the Conduct of the War in Spain, and Mr. Sheridan was in attendance, with the intention, no doubt, of speaking, the House was suddenly illuminated by a blaze of light; and, the Debate being interrupted, it was ascertained that the Theatre of Drury Lane was on fire. A motion was made to adjourn; but Mr. Sheridan said, with much calmness, that 'whatsoever might be the extent of the private calamity, he hoped it would not interfere with the public business of the country'. He then left the House; and, proceeding to Drury Lane, witnessed, with a fortitude which strongly interested all who observed him, the entire destruction of his property. It is said that, as he sat at the Piazza Coffee-house during the fire, taking some refreshment, a friend of his having remarked on the philosophic calmness with which he bore his misfortune, Sheridan answered, 'A man may surely be allowed to take a glass of wine by his own fireside.'

— Thomas Moore, Memoirs of the Life of the Right Honourable Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1825), ii. 368.